Thursday, 08 December 2022
Gillie Sutherland Gillie Sutherland

The U.K. no longer feels like home - After two years, it is alien to me

Written by  Gillie Sutherland Mar 27, 2022

I’ve never been so happy to be returning home.

At one point I didn’t think I was going to make it.

Heathrow Airport this morning was like a comedy of errors, except without any humour, and even with my negative covid test, it’s still like a hot-bed of anger and anxiety.

I’m sat next to someone who is wearing two masks, one of them looks like it’s fastened with tape, she’s drawing on an inhaler every two minutes, and glaring at me as if the whole thing is my fault, because I’m not wearing a mask.

“I just tested negative this morning”, I tell her, hoping this will offer some reassurance.

I’m wrong. She’s horrified. For she knows what this must mean. Yes, I am the enemy.

I’ve travelled just once in the past two years, and the only reason I’ve been back in London this weekend is that I was there for a really important wedding. Two of my best friends are getting married, and as the person that set them up ten years ago, I am maid-of-honour, surprise guest, and fairy godmother all at once.

It was really odd because I’m never anxious about travelling, but within an hour of landing in London, my greatest fear was not being able to get back into Croatia, for the U.K. no longer feels like home. After two years, it is alien to me.

I long for the clean air and space of Paklenica National Park, which has become one of my favourite places on the planet.

I had been there just a couple of days before my trip to the Big Smoke. I’d take a group hiking up to Paklenica Mountain Hut, where we enjoyed an alfresco lunch cooked by the Manager Irena.

Irena is one of the most intriguing and inspiring people I have met here. The first female caretaker of a mountain hut in Croatia, she has such a strong connection to nature, and her surroundings, she exudes energy and vitality, and when she tells me that “the wind whispered to her”, I know exactly what she means.

Paklenica is the kind of place you can breathe, you can hear everything, you can feel through all your senses. It’s a place where everything makes sense, and you look around and you’re reminded on everything that’s pure and good in the world. I feel at home there, and at my healthiest.

paklenica croatia 2022

Paklenica is the kind of place you can breathe

In contrast, three days in London and I feel like a fish out of water. I can’t breathe, I can’t move for people, and I have a headache from all the noise.

I make the mistake of being drawn into an “Energiser Vanilla Latte” at Costa Coffee, lured in by the promise of coconut oil, added zinc and vitamin B6, thinking it’s going to make me feel better.

It’s revolting. It tastes like a chemistry experiment, and I can’t even taste the coffee.

I long for Irena’s homemade limoncello.

Or a proper coffee, in a cup with a saucer, in a cafe bar by the water, watching the cormorants.

I look around and I notice there is no one smiling in the airport. Not one person. Where is the joy?

I want to be back playing hide-and-seek in the playground that is Velebit, and out of the craziness of the City. Nothing makes sense anymore.

I just need to get out of here.

Thankfully I’m on the plane, winging my way back to my safe place, and I’m recalling the moment of truth on the way to the airport this morning.

“Going anywhere nice?”, the taxi driver asks me.

My answer is simple.

“Yes. I’m going home”.


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Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Cavtat. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.

To find out more about Gillie go to

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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